I will start this article off with clear distinction: there is not much more that can be said about “The Phenom” that has not been said already. That is a clear, evident, unequivocal, open and shut, clear, decided fact. Even if you have never been to or seen a professional wrestling match, never had the urge to pick up a magazine, never said “Damn, that dude is huge” and watched as he bludgeoned others in and out of the ring with punches, kicks, chairs, broom handles, or anything else in the vicinity of the ring, never was a kid caught in by the flashy ring attire and colorful characters, never drawn in by the fireworks that gave way to a performance worthy of pomp and ceremony with each and every match, never heard the explosions, loud entrance music, crowds of people from every demographic screaming and cheering at the top of their lungs in a cacophony of expletives and praise, you have surely heard of The Undertaker.
Truth be told, the 6’10, 230 lb demonically iconic entertainer has surpassed all others as more than the sum of his parts. He has crossed barriers that have yet to be replicated. Pair that with a professional career that spans back almost 30 years, doing the bare minimum of 300 matches a year for most of it, and you have an entertainer worthy of the praise that has continuously been bestowed on him. He is the pinnacle of excellence in the sport and he is the one most worthy of it. Even more worthy than, dare I say, Shawn Michaels or Hulk Hogan? Sure, those names are household too, in their own way. Hogan’s persona was definitely one that changed the landscape of wrestling , reaching out to hundreds of thousands with the admiral WWF flagship Wrestlemania leading the way in the 1980’s. “The Heartbreak Kid”, or “HBK” as he is affectionately called by fans, Shawn Michaels took off from his stint as a tag team partner in The Rockers to ultimately graduate to the moniker “Mr. Wrestlemania” due mostly to his ability to step up everyone else’s game when it counted in pay-per-views, such as the one his epithet. I’m not condoning “The Rock” or John Cena in any sort of way, am I? Well, maybe I am. But I’ll save them for another time.
The point is that The Undertaker is an icon. He’s unmistakable. As fans, we’ve learned to notice that when the lights come down, the lightning will strike, an eerie, blue mist will begin to form and make its way down the entrance ramp, and we know for sure that the next thing we will hear is the resonating boom of Chopin’s 3rd movement in his 2nd Sonata, more commonly referred to as “The Funeral March”, and a large, ominous figure emerging from the darkness. In any country, in any language, it is indisputable who that man clad in shadows will reveal himself to be. With a raise of his arms, the lights come up, as if he himself controls the sun above, and the crowd roars in its approval.
Showmanship is definitely a quality that every wrestler, or “sports entertainer” wants, and works, to have. I am sure the WWE had no idea what they had in their hands when they debuted him as “Kane The Undertaker” at the time, or the magnitude of the boundaries he would destroy as a championship-caliber character. But they immediately pitted him against the top athletes they had of the time without any hesitance: The Ultimate Warrior, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Sid Justice, even Hulk Hogan. And he has done nothing but dominate the industry since.
‘All this is fine and well,’ I am sure a lot of readers who possess knowledge of this information are thinking to themselves right now, ‘But, what’s the point? Well, the point is that there is no argument to be had. There just isn’t. He is irrefutably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
However, my query is this: what legacy will “The Deadman” leave behind? He cannot go on forever, despite what his persona would leave you to believe. His kayfabe brother, Kane, is almost ready to hang up his tights and become Glenn Jacobs, CTO, or CDO, or DDS (if you got that last one, good for you), so it is not too difficult to fathom that “The Lord Of Darkness” is somewhat close to his end as well.
But what of his incredible accomplishment, his 21-0 Wrestlemania streak? Ah, I bet you were waiting for me to mention THAT! What of the end to one of the greatest feats ever seen in this, or any other sport? How will creative writers like David Kreizman, Tom Cassielo, or Kevin Eck figure out a way to leave this benchmark legitimate, interesting, and fitting for such an incredible story? This is where they truly have their hands full. Because in what way can they retire such a beloved individual in a respectful manner, yet keep his legacy in tact?
There are a lot of theories about that seem to think they have the best scenario. One I heard involved Vince McMahon, the owner and CO of WWE, stepping back in to the ring to end the streak himself, screwing him over in a situation mimicking “The Montreal Screwjob“, and force-feeding another run as “The Evil Boss” down everyone’s throats. Another was him giving the streak up to a younger, talented wrestler in need of a push to launch them into similar, unprecedented heights never before seen.
If you ask me, none of these scenarios work for The Undertaker, his Wrestlemania streak, or the company. Let’s also go ahead and face facts that the only reason he has been returning for a mere few months out of the year is merely to uphold the reign of that very streak. So how, oh how, will it, and how should it, end?!
The truth is I don’t know. Did The Undertaker’s legacy end with Brock Lesnar breaking the streak at WrestleMania XXX? Will he come back again to put Roman Reigns over, or just bury Bray Wyatt?
The bigger picture would show that it has. Brock Lesnar ended the streak. And The Taker put Wyatt under, then Roman Reigns inherited something he may or may not have deserved. He is the stakeholder in the Wrestler’s Court.
Yet, is “The Phenom” done? From what backstage sources say is, “NOPE.” He is as good as ever. What could he possibly do though, besides solidify his legacy? Perhaps, he may or may not put another person over. He certainly did not with Bray Wyatt. Maybe Bo Dallas? I think… The Taker will do another Roman Reigns job, and help us into the SHIELD age. Oh, wait…
He will ALWAYS come back.